Whether you’ve just arrived in Beijing or been living here for a while, you may be feeling full of gratitude about the exciting opportunity of living in China – but still get the feeling that there is something fundamental missing in your life: friends. Even for extroverts like myself, it takes a big, deep breath to walk into a room full of people you don’t know and take that all-important step that’s required in order to make us thrive – so here are a few tips to meeting new friends in Beijing.
Sign up for a language course
Joining a Chinese school may very well be one of the best decisions you will take. If you sign up for group lessons, you’re likely to not only become friends with your classmates but also to increase your chances of finding Chinese friends. Win-win.
Use your hobby to meet likeminded people
One of the best ways of finding like-minded friends is through your hobbies. In my case, music is my passion and we had barely landed in Beijing before I started looking for a musical outlet. At first, I went to open mic evenings and later joined the fabulous a cappella group “Jing Sing”. Similarly, my husband found running groups and gets to explore the trails and mountains of China with newfound, likeminded friends.
Hope that someone will invite you in
When you’re new to a place, you rely not only on your own proactiveness but also on other people’s friendliness. You will likely be invited into several groups shortly after you arrive in Beijing – and joining a group of people with the same nationality as you can be a good place to start if you’re looking for that “home away from home” feeling.
When good neighbors become good friends
Did you recognize that phrase from the title song of the Australian sitcom Neighbors? If you, like me, are lucky, you will find a great compound with a close-knit community. Should your compound not yet have a WeChat group, why not start one?
Meet other parents
If you have kids and they attend an international school in Beijing, chances are that there is a wide array of activities for parents on offer. Whether you become involved on a daily basis, volunteer for events or choose to show up to the occasional coffee morning, you will have plenty of chances to meet other parents and make friends with them.
Go local if you can
Due to the language barrier, it is difficult to find Chinese friends unless they speak English (or you speak Chinese) meaning that your potential Chinese friends are likely to be young and with a good understanding of foreign cultures. I appreciate my (few) Chinese friends very much and I want to thank them for letting me bombard them with questions about Chinese culture (and language) and for occasionally letting me use them as sources for my blog posts and articles.
Give it time
Making friends takes time. But once you make it beyond the small talk at coffee mornings, parties or outings, you will soon find out whom you really click with. I often find comfort in the feeling that we are all in the same boat. Most of the people I meet and interact with in Beijing are foreigners who, like myself, have started from scratch here. Chances are that we have more in common that meets the eye.